Gateway Music

So, over at the Passive Guy’s blog, PG posted a story about someone worrying that a fondness for Rick Riordan’s books might lead young readers down the path of reading only popular fiction and not real literature. ( and the rebuttal:  ) The original articles were both in major publications with large audiences, and the discussions got spritely, although (as you would suspect) most writers sided with the “Hey, if the kids are reading get out of the way” side of the argument. I mention this because I listened to Saint-saens’s “Danse Macabre” last night, and woke up with “Carnival of the Animals” running on my mental playlist. We talk about gateway drugs and gateway books, so what about gateway music? Does it even exist anymore? I freely admit I was very Odd as a kid. I did not hear pop music until I was eleven years old. Until then I got a steady diet of folk, spirituals, and classical. I heard Bach and Odetta, Pete Seeger and Puccini, Gregorian chant and John Williams (both the composer and the guitarist), and pretty much anything acoustic with a melody and harmony. And I giggled along with “What’s Opera, Doc?” sighed (and hid my eyes) during Fantasia, and picked up all the musical in-jokes in cartoons and P.D.Q. Bach. One Halloween I borrowed someone’s Minnesota Vikings hat and went as a valkyrie from Wagner. I recall seeing Leonard Bernstein’s “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” And as was traditional, when I reached the proper ages and sizes, I sang in kids’ choirs and took piano lessons.

Because I’d been immersed in bits and pieces of classical music, I was ready to listen to longer and longer works, including operas, symphonies, and the great cantatas and oratorios. The cartoons and TV snippets served as my gateway music. When I was older, I got a recording of Celtic Harp Christmas music that included three tunes I’d never come across. That sent me diving into the world of old religious music, and back into the Sacred Harp tradition.

The earlier, simpler, “easier” works were my gateway. They tuned my ear for later pieces, things not so fun or easy to listen to (*cough* Eric Whitaker *cough*) Now, listening to bits of pop and rock, I wonder if we have anything like that today. Do any popular kids shows slip in opera and oratorios? Fantasia 2000 wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite the original (IMHO) in terms of quality of animation or the selection of music. Does anyone sing parodies of classical pieces? “Waltz of the Hours” with dancing hippos and crocodiles, or “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah?” Which will ruin you for ever hearing it in a concert, let me add.

Did you have gateway music? Does it even exist today? I hope so.


3 thoughts on “Gateway Music

  1. Once upon a time, not that long ago, the Anchorage Symphony (and Chorus) held a concert – Carmina Burana.

    About half the audience looked like regular attending members. All the expensive seats had people with grey hair in splendid attire. However, unlike most concerts, the nosebleed seats were packed to the brim, and even the main floor had intrusions of groups clearly trading in on a parent / grandparent / boss’s membership – many dressed in quite modest outfits made of their clubbing gear (finest and spiffiest clothes they owned), while a sizeable goth contingent had really toned down the makeup and wore their best dresses and corsets, suits and ties, and not a few rented tuxes. There were also a few folks who’d cleaned up and squeezed into their prom dresses present, along with a leavening of the usual scruffy music students.

    I took pity on a bewildered dame of society, who was trying hard to be polite and gracious about being swarmed in her own element by such a dizzying array of black velvet, mohawks, and young men with skunk stripes and metallic blue lame shirts tucked into PVC pants. “It’s not that the kids don’t listen to classical music. The ones who take their electronica pretty seriously, and their goth, ruthlessly plunder classical and choral works for vocal samples. This is one of those things that everybody has long danced to remixed samples, and most of the people here are really interested in experiencing it in the original.”

    “Oh. I had wondered.” She replied, a little faintly, then added hopefully. “Do you think they’ll come back?” Clearly, there was no keeping this woman from hoping the youth of today might yet show signs of civilization.

    I grinned at her. “Depends on what else is offered this season. But looking at the schedule, probably not. for a while.”

    • I was on the other side of the orchestra last time I heard Carmina, and it looked like a full house. The local/regional goths tend to favor Rachmaninoff and Latin American or Spanish works, interestingly enough. Who knows, but I’m always glad to see new faces. (And the Carmina Burana are not hard to sing, if you are soprano or alto. The guys do all the work 😀 . )

      • ’twas goth that taught me if you can find a beat that’ll approximate 3/4 in there anywhere, you can waltz to it – even if it’s electronica, or industrial rock, and if you can find something close enough to 4/4, there’s foxtrot.

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